Not staged at the Abbey since 1961 The Evidence I Shall Give is the latest in a series of productions held by the National Theatre to both remember the findings of the Ryan Report and reflect on the abuse revealed within state-funded and regulated institutions. Their treatment of this subject to date has made me quick to look for fault in anything that’s presented by Irish theatre practitioners so when I first read about this show I wondered just how Richard Johnson’s almost fifty year old courtroom drama could possibly have any relevance in light of what we now know. Since it was written by a District Court Judge, was a reading and not a staging and ran to almost two and a half hours I was fully prepared for a turgid night of theatre.

How wonderful to have my expectations so mercilessly shattered. A combination of shrewd casting by director Sophie Motley and clearly defined characters brought to life by an energetic cast left me utterly enthralled by this blithe, bewitching and eventually chilling piece of theatre which, taken in conjunction with Mary Rafferty’s No Escape, pushed me to intellectually and emotionally engage with a topic I thought I was well versed in.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Escape

April 24, 2010

No Escape is, for all intents and purposes, a staging of The Ryan Report, compiled by Mary Raftery and skilfully brought to life by director Roisin McBrinn. It is a serious, sombre presentation of the facts, one hour and thirty minutes long that gives the audience no opportunity to avoid or pass over the horrors inflicted on the states neediest subjects. Together in a darkened room we listen, absorb and emote free of the commercial breaks, mediated viewpoints and constant distractions that dogged previous documentations.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s been a long time since I have come away physically affected by a piece of theatre but after sitting through the agony about ecstasy that is Candy Flipping Butterflies I’m shaking like a Polaroid picture. I’ve bemoaned the lack of contemporary relevance in Irish theatre since I started writing about theatre but good God, give me the cadavers of the cast of Glenroe horsing their way through whatever John B Keane play the provinces desire then make me sit through this painfully inept portrait of the children of the jilted generation again.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Plassey Shipwreck

April 23, 2010

Fifty years ago this year, on March 8th 1960, an event occurred which forever changed the path of history for the residents of Inis Oirr, the smallest Aran Island. The Plassey, a cargo ship sailing between Fenit, Co. Kerry and Galway Harbor with a shipload of general cargo got into trouble of the islands southern tip, known locally as Gob Na Curradh. After half an hour struggling against viscous southeasterly winds the crewmen lost control of the vessel, which was thrown up on The Finnish Rock. Moves were taken to abandon ship but the small lifeboat got away from the 11 men aboard and they were now stranded on the rocks off of the tiny island.

Read the rest of this entry »

What applies to busses would also appear to aply to the gays. You wait around to see one queer on the Irish stage and three festivals full of them come at once. As we await to hear if the Queer Notions Festival gets some much needed funding to make its second journey out of the closet and into the Project Arts Centre, this month see’s the welcome return of the 6th annual Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, taking place at venues all over Dublin City Centre’s north side. It faces stiff competition from the Absolute Gay Theatre Festival that runs concurrently and, in spite of this being its first time, avoids the awkward fumbling that may be expected of it with a line up so diverse it puts the stogy, groundhog plays that litter our main stages and our fringe to shame.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ted Fest Oz Preview

April 21, 2010

Four years after bringing the feck, the arse and the drink to the Aran Islands, Peter Phillips and the crew behind Ted Fest are bringing the world’s zaniest fan convention to Australia for the inaugural Ted Fest OZ, which takes place in Parkes, New South Wales over the Easter Weekend, April 2nd-5th.

Started by Phillips, a Welsh film maker, in 2007 Ted Fest is a celebration of all things Father Ted which aimed to be the opposite of most fan conventions, which were just a few fans gathered in a pub with a few token ‘stars’ dragged in to sign autographs. The premise of Ted Fest was to create Craggy Island, with fans becoming the characters and making the fiction of Father Ted a reality.

Read the rest of this entry »

d1
Alice Coughlan and Wonderland Theatre Productions have brought a site specific staging of The Picture of Dorian Gray to The James Joyce Tea Room in Bewleys Cafe on Grafton Street for the One Book, One City festival. It is an invigorating, luxurious piece of drama that is undermined by two poor directorial choices.
Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Murphy’s The Sanctuary Lamp caused outrage and walk outs when it first played to an Abbey audience 35 years ago. So vitriolic was the reaction of the general public and their clerical shit stirrers that Murphy went into a self imposed exile but thankfully returned just two years later to continue in his role as one of our least typical playwrights. He has revived his most controversial work for B*Spoke Theatre Company which is updated and fresh from a raved about run in London’s Arcola Theatre.

My, how the years have changed us. The average punter in last nights audience at the Civic Theatre would have been middle aged during the plays initial run but rather than reaching for their pitchforks and petroleum they were relaxed, contemplative and occasionally a little bemused at a show which has been described as anti clerical, anti spiritual and anti Catholic. Were you to look you would find evidence of all this here but it is also supernal, life affirming and, naturally given the current climate, thought provoking. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is Fergus Kilpatrick? Or what? Fucked if I know and more worryingly, with regards the last question, I’ m not sure if The Company, the crew who received the Spirit of the Fringe award for this show, does either. What it is is an enigmatic, entertaining piece of theatre compiled by some charismatic personalities (particularly Brian Bennet and Tanya Wilson) who amuse as often as they confuse.

With a play within a play and a mockumentary about a documentary they combine reality theatre, heightened performances and video trickery to start, restart and start again but never actually tell us who Fergus Kilpatrick is. The show had me constantly questioning myself. Are the actors for real? Are the audience? Is there something deeper at work here or is it deliberately saying very little as loudly as possible? It left me shifting in my seat unable to relax my mind or my person, which certainly earns it a place above most of the theatre I’ve seen since January and which I gather was their intention. But like much of the theatre it left me reaching for what’s fast becoming my critical buzzword of the season-unfulfilling.

It’s ok to pose the questions and not supply the answers but when the questions themselves are hard to distinguish then it’s hard to see the point. I liked the general idea of the show, which was to play with personal perceptions and accepted truths, to lampoon the theatricality of theatre while funneling other mediums to enhance it, but it would have worked better if it were a little less self aware, a little subtler.

But subtlety and coherence seem to be the antithesis of what young Dublin theatre practitioners seems to be about these days. Willie White’s Project Arts Centre should be applauded for providing emerging artists with a stage to explore their ideas. If only their was someone on hand to help them shape them.

Then again perhaps I missed the point. Director Jose Miguel Jimenez here try’s to tell me what the show is all about.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bairbre ni Chaoimh’s adaptation of The Birthday of the Infanta, which runs untill the 8th of May at The Bewleys Cafe Theatre is pretty, pleasant and painless. But scratch away at the whimsy and you’ll not find much beneath.

It is the 12th birthday of the Infanta, the Princess of Spain, a day that comes but once a year and which is of great importance to everybody-particularly the Infanta herself, who in respect of her rank is only allowed play with children of a similar social standing(ie herself)except for this one day when she is allowed play with a select few other children of privilege. An array of animals and entertainers are drafted in for her viewing pleasure and to help take her mind of the fact that her father, the King, is to maudelin to pay her any attention, today, or on any other day since her mother died when she was just six months old.

There’s a kindly governess, a maniacal uncle and a pair of talking flowers thrown into this mix but the basic story revolves around a dwarf-or a grotesque as they were known at the time-who mistakenly thinks that the Infanta has fallen for him when she throws him a rose in appreciation of his woodland dance. He then sets off to woo her with devastating consequences.

The story is just too big and to rich to be done justice on the tiny Bewleys stage, particularly given the constraints of time and space. The bare bones of the story remain in tact but when carving out the play contained within the original short story Ni Chaoimh is forced to cull so much and tack whats left together with jarring narrations so that what could have been a really beautiful, visual piece of theatre never emerges. It just didn’t feel like the work of Oscar Wilde.

The performers are, by and large, competent with Jill Murphy charming as the prissy, pampered Infanta and Natalie Randall Quirke an entertaining governess. But while both milked their lines for what they were worth neither elicited much sympathy or explored the damaged, sensitive side of the a child whose father would rather spend time with the embalmed corpse of his long dead wife than with his living daughter.When reading the short story you are expected to join the dots yourself but when bringing a part to life for the stage it is the job of the performer to join them for you. And I don’t believe the characters emerged rounded enough here.

My heart went out to Oscar Hernandez Rodriguez who as the King, the entertainer and the little grotesque clearly had the best of intentions and the right idea about how to play the part but lacked the ability to bring them to life on stage. The pivotal revelation he makes at the plays end is so fudged over, so undercooked it dilutes the whole piece of dramatic impact.

There’s a lot to work with here and its not without its charms. There’s a nice sense of atmosphere, beautiful production design and all have commited to bringing the work to life. I think free of the restrictions this venue put on her Ni Chaoimh could bake something quite indulgent and filling out of Wilde’s core ingredients. But right now its theatrical fast food, easy to digest but not particularly satisfying.